Ignore everything I wrote at https://jb.rainsberger.ca/permalink/honeywell-wifi-thermostats-not-connecting-to-wifi-network about the failures with my WiFi thermostats. I got that wrong. I have it right now, and I have my wife, her Kobo, and her determination to thank for it.
The Actiontec R3000 modem/router combination device appears to have a limit of 11 WiFi clients connected at once. This will cause devices to mysteriously stop joining the network. We worked around the problem by connecting a wireless access point over a wire (Ethernet) to the Actiontec router, then connecting our devices to the wireless access point. This reduces the number of WiFi clients on the Actiontec router and the problem disappears.
No, I don’t know why the Actiontec R3000 has this limit. I find it silly. I don’t want to know why, because knowing why will only make me feel more sad.
It seemed to start about 6 weeks ago when the WiFi thermostats fell off the WiFi network at home and couldn’t rejoin it. I spent about a week exchanging email with Honeywell support, trying various silly things, watching them work intermittently, and then giving up by turning the thermostats’ WiFi radios off. Before giving up, I wrote “Honeywell WiFi Thermostats Not Connecting To WiFi Network”, prematurely concluding that if I reserved IP addresses for the thermostats, then they would stay on the network. This did, after all, seem to work… for a while. The next day, the thermostats fell off the network, I flipped a table, turned their WiFi radios off, and then resigned myself to owning programmable-but-no-longer-WiFi thermostats. It wouldn’t become a problem until the winter, anyway. Then, suddenly, Sarah’s Kobo e-reader wouldn’t join the network either.
Good news: this pointed to the network, not the devices, as the problem. Bad news: I didn’t want to diagnose the problem. Good news: Sarah somehow likes to look things up, dig through the details, and suggest possible causes. I got to keep working on my tasks while she occasionally tossed out a possible cause. After a few iterations of this, it sounded like she struck gold.
Sarah found a discussion thread at digitalhome.ca in which one participant mentioned that they’d learned from our ISP that the Actiontec R3000 could only handle 11 WiFi clients. The whole thing sounded bizarre to me, but plausible, so I looked at our router’s administrative page and sure enough, I saw 11 connected clients. Sarah was on to something.
I knew that we had a very long Ethernet cable, which we could use to connect our signal range extender to the Actiontec router, which should reduce the number of WiFi-connected clients. We tried that, and at first we were crestfallen: the Actiontec router reported WiFi clients connected to the signal range extender as “WiFi connected clients”. But… there were now 14! And the Kobos could connect to the network!
We rebooted the Actiontec router, then saw only a few WiFi clients directly connected to it, like our television PVR. The Kobos connected without any difficulty. Every other WiFi device in the house seemed to be working, all connected to the signal range extender rather than the Actiontec router. So we tried the WiFi thermostats.
It took about 2 minutes, but they connected. I turned their WiFi radios back on and one of them connected automatically while the other restarted in WiFi Setup mode, but I connected it to the signal range extender’s network without incident.
The Network Setup
We now have an Actiontec R3000 modem/router connected directly to our FibreOp box. It runs a WiFi network that we essentially don’t use. We currently have a Netgear EX7000 WiFi signal range extender connected by Ethernet to the Actiontec R3000, and this signal range extender acts as a WiFi router for the house. We could certainly replace this signal range extender with a plain WiFi router and that would just work, since it now connects to the main network by a wire rather than WiFi.
WiFi speeds throughout the house have at least doubled.
We have even connected the television PVR to the Netgear router over Ethernet, so literally nothing in the house uses the Actiontec WiFi network at the moment. This would make it easy to have a guest network separate from the network we use.
Excellent! We did it!
If your ISP forces an Actiontec R3000 modem/router on you, then I strongly recommend that you connect another router to the R3000 and then connect your WiFi devices to the second router, in order to avoid this 11-device limit. I didn’t need any specialized networking knowledge to make this work. I simply connected my second router to the Actiontec by Ethernet, then ran the second router as an access point. Easy. Even I knew enough to do it without reading any online tutorial nor calling any networking-savvy friends.